In crime movies and TV shows, defense attorneys often resort to a plea of not guilty because of insanity or say their clients are incompetent to stand trial to save the defendants from unfavorable verdicts.

Insanity and incompetency are sometimes the only viable arguments when the defense has no helpful evidence and testimonies to corroborate their claim of innocence.

In fictional courts on-screen, psychologists explain to the jury the circumstances and symptoms suggesting that at least when the defendants committed the crimes they are being charged with now, they were mentally disturbed.

Therefore the court should send them to mental hospitals instead of prisons.

Although the argument of insanity is not a quite common legal defense in real-world criminal trials,

it does come up now and then, just like what happens with a double murder case allegedly committed by mentally disturbed Austin Harrouff.

In August 2016, Austin was arrested at the crime scene almost immediately after killing his neighbors Michelle and John Stevens. Before the killings, Austin reportedly claimed he was an immortal being with superpowers.


10 /10 Average Decent Guy

Before August 2016, there had been no indication to suggest that Austin was nothing but a typical American young man. He was born in 1996 and grew up in Florida.

His parents divorced when he was a toddler, but all things considered, Austin had an everyday life. He played football and had good grades, so he was an average yet decent young adult on paper.

After high school, he enrolled at Florida State University, where he spent several years studying, partying, and wrestling. Then August 2016 came when he started seeing an “evil presence” at home.

9 /10 Much Needed Protection

At first, Austin told his family he needed to protect them from the evil presence. Soon enough, the unreasonable suggestion escalated to a claim that he was an immortal being blessed with superpowers.

His outrageous words often make no sense at all, leading to verbal fights with his father. Some nights his sister even locked her door, for she was afraid that Austin would do something terrible to her.

He searched for supernatural-related terms on his computers, such as selling soul to the devil and obsessive thoughts. His browser history also shows a query about “schizophrenic” symptoms.

8 /10 Hallucinogenic Mushrooms

In addition to the frequent argument with his father, Austin now had a new hobby: shooting at birds in the neighborhood and generally turned into someone other than the person his friends used to know.

In the morning of August 15, 2016, Austin started the day with his father and planned to have dinner together. Before he had any taste of the food that evening, Austin hurried to his mother’s house.

Later on, he would say that he did not remember the event when he drank some cooking oil mixed with parmesan cheese, possibly a dose of hallucinogenic mushroom.


7 /10 The Killing

His mother would drive Austin back to the restaurant, but he was again involved in an argument with his father and stormed out.

Wandering in the streets, he came across the Stevens’ home, two miles away from the restaurant.

Austin entered their garage and attacked John Stevens for an unknown reason before turning the rage to John’s wife, Michelle.

Austin grabbed many items in the garage to beat the couple and stab them repeatedly to death using a pocket knife. A neighbor, Jeff Fisher, came to check on the commotion, and he too was stabbed multiple times.


6 /10 Bite Wound

Still bleeding from his wound, Jeff ran back home to call 911. Jeff survived multiple injuries, including a fractured skull.

When deputies from the Martin County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the Stevens’ house, they found a horrific scene where Michelle was lifeless on the ground, and nearby Austin was biting John’s face in the driveway like he was about to eat the victim.

Some of the officers also heard him making growling noises like a dog. A pair of scissors and a knife soaked in blood were found at the scene.

5 /10 I Ate Something Bad

One of the deputies immediately ordered Austin at gunpoint to let go of John’s body. As he did not seem to listen, another officer fired off his electric stun gun, and still, Austin would not let go.

Deputies said they did not fire any shot at Austin for fear of hitting John Stevens. Another deputy arrived with an actual dog whose bites managed to bother him enough that officers could subdue him.

Moments after Austin was taken into custody, he asked the deputies to help him, saying that he ate something wrong. He meant human flesh.

Martin County Sheriff’s Office

4 /10 Four Counts Of Crimes

Records show that Austin begged the deputies to kill him shortly after the arrest.

Austin Harrouff was charged with two counts of first-degree murder with a weapon, one count of attempted first-degree murder, and one burglary with an assault.

He was transported to the St. Macy’s Hospital in West Palm Beach following the arrest and considering his condition.

As his injuries improved, on October 3, Austin was taken into custody by the Martin County Sheriff’s Department and moved to the Martin County Jail.

3 /10 Half-Man Half-Dog

If convicted of the crimes as charged, he faces a life sentence. Austin’s attorney has argued he should be found not guilty due to his mental condition at the time of the killings.

Dr. Phillip Resnick, the forensic psychiatrist appointed by the court to evaluate the defendant’s mental state, filed a report in March 2019 suggesting that Austin Harrouff was insane when the killings happened.

In the statement, the doctor said Austin believed he was half-man half-dog when he attacked the couple.

2 /10 Second Expert

Clinical and forensic psychologist Dr. Gregory Landrum came to the same conclusion in February 2020.

However, Dr. Landrum, in his report, also said that Austin has a history of alcohol and drug abuse, including methamphetamine, cocaine, hallucinogens, and other stimulants.

Blood tests found marijuana and alcohol in his system just hours after the killing.

Although the report may support the defense argument, some sections contain damaging analysis too. State prosecutors have requested to hire yet another mental health expert to do another evaluation.


1 /10 Postponed Indefinitely

The trial schedule has been postponed indefinitely, waiting for the result of the third test.

The expert to conduct the psychiatric analysis would be Michael Gamache, a forensic neuropsychologist.

An attorney representing Michelle Stevens’ family said that the conclusion drawn by Dr. Landrum is inconsistent with the defendant’s history of drug abuse.

In the months preceding and at the attack, the attorney claimed Austin was drunk, so insanity defense is not a sound legal defense.

As of now, it remains unclear if Austin Harrouff will face any legal consequence for his brutal murders.

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